Stravinsky wrote his dance piece The Firebird for Diaghilev’s ballet company. The script is based on a Russian fairy tale. In the kingdom of King Koschei, there is an evil sorcerer who holds princesses captive. The prince captures the firebird in a hunt and is about to kill her; she begs for her life, and he spares her. As a token of thanks, the firebird offers him an enchanted feather that he can use to summon her should he be in dire need. Under the cover of night, the captive princesses are dancing under the golden apple tree in the garden of Koschei when the prince catches sight of and falls instantly in love with one of them. The prince puts an end to Koschei’s reign with the help of the firebird. Thus the firebird becomes the bird of life triumphant over death.
The piece was a huge success at its première in Paris in 1910 and immediately brought worldwide fame to the young composer. Later on, Stravinsky composed an orchestral suite from the dance, which he reworked twice. The work is a good example of the influences that shaped Stravinsky’s style in his early period. In part, his orchestration technique follows that of brilliantly skilled master, Rimsky-Korsakov, in part it adopts the painterly and bold sounds of the French Impressionists, while the influence of Russian folk music can also be felt in it.
Levitas’s Remembering Benny Goodman is a true jazz concerto, written for two clarinets and symphony orchestra. The work features the Duo Gurfinkel, Daniel and Alexander Gurfinkel, who were only 12 years old when they were invited by Zubin Mehta to perform together with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then, they have had much success performing with the Zagreb Philharmonic, the Belgrade Philharmonic, the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra and the National Ukraine Symphony Orchestra, among others. The twins have strong musical roots in their family, as their grandfather is a renowned clarinettist, teacher and arranger, and their father is the first clarinettist of the Israel Symphony Orchestra.
Our concert will conclude with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. Written for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, in this Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), Dvořák uses elements of various types of music from the Americas, including traditional American and African-American music, blended with the musical heritage of his own country, creating a new, uniquely American symphonic style. The composer gave his piece the well-known title “From the New World” only after he had finished composing it. There is no doubt, however, that from the outset he consciously sought to give the composition a distinctly ‘American’ character. For example, in the large-scale sonata-like first movement, which begins with a slow introduction, there is a secondary theme which is a pentatonic melody. It is not a ‘folk song’, but it is one of the kind that Dvořák might have seen in music collections of his time, and perhaps even heard them on the street.
The conductor for the evening is Georgian composer and conductor Vakhtang Kakhidze, who studied composition and orchestration at the Moscow State Music University. He learned conducting from his world-famous father, Jansug Kakhidze. Since 1993, Vakhtang Kakhidze has been conductor of the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra.